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György Ligeti

Beyond Avant-garde and Postmodernism- Translated by Ernest Bernhardt-Kabisch

Constantin Floros

This monograph is an authoritative study of the œuvre of one of the most important composers of our time. For the first time, Ligeti’s key works are presented in the context of their drafts and sketches. His personal and artistic development is set forth and illuminated, and his principal compositions are analyzed and reinterpreted, based on detailed studies of the scores and drafts, as well as on personal conversations with the composer. In addition, numerous questions concerning today’s composing are raised and discussed. Music does not have to be puristic: Ligeti’s spheres of interest are close to universal, embracing history, natural science, and visual arts, as well as music of diverse eras and ethnicities. This expanded world of the musical comprises not just tones and sounds, speech and music, the vocal and the instrumental: Ligeti conceives music as a cosmos of acoustic form.
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1.1 Biographical Sketch

Extract

“C’est la musique qui est ma seule passion.”1

“Work and workaday life somehow flow together for me.”2

“The affairs of daily life are regulated in such a way that there remains sufficient time for work.”3

“I want to be able to work more and faster. Hence the necessary changeover to ‘telegram style’ in all matters of life, so that enough time remains for composing.”4

From 1973 to 1988, György Ligeti served as professor of composition at the Music Academy in Hamburg. When he was asked whether his retirement signified a turning-point in his life, he firmly denied it, saying that his appointment in Hamburg had not seemed a caesura to him either, since he had previously taught also in Sweden and in the United States (at Stanford University). He was thus alluding to a continuity in his life, which had always centered on composing and teaching. Even so, it would be an exaggeration to say that there had been no incisive events in his life. One such event, for example, was his flight from Hungary to the West in December of 1956.

The first thing one wants to learn from the biography of a creative person is how he came to be what he is. To answer this question, one has to look into an entire complex of matters such as his/her socialization, training and development, the influences to which s/he was exposed, the historical...

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